MSF assesses response as Ukraine conflict escalates

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams remain in Ukraine, in the wake of the escalating conflict, and we are currently seeking ways to adapt our response as the conflict situation evolves.

Our teams in Ukraine are deeply worried about the consequences of the conflict for Ukrainian people and communities. We see on the roads that tens of thousands of people are frightened and are on the move.

The drastic change in context means we have had to take the painful decision to halt our activities in the country. These included care for people living with HIV in Severodonetsk; care for patients with tuberculosis in Zhytomyr; and improving access to healthcare access in Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, where we have been providing much-needed healthcare, including for mental health, to conflict-affected communities.

Although these programmes have now mostly stopped, we did all we could to ensure some continuity of care for our patients. The needs were already high, as people had been living through eight years of conflict. We are worried about the impact prolonged fighting could have on patients, many of whom are elderly and suffer from chronic diseases.

Immediately before the escalation of tensions, we were in contact with several hospitals in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (provinces) to provide training in emergency medicine and surgical preparedness. Yesterday, our team provided one mass casualty kit to a hospital in Mariupol. As hostilities continue, assuring people’s access to healthcare and medicines will be critical.

MSF teams are looking into how they can adapt our activities to respond.

The situation is fast-evolving, so we are mobilising general emergency-preparedness response measures to be ready for a variety of potential needs.

Our teams in Belarus and Russia stand ready to provide humanitarian assistance if needed. We are looking to send teams to other neighbouring countries to be ready on standby, either for response in Ukraine or to provide humanitarian medical assistance to refugees seeking asylum abroad. Our supply centres are currently working on readying medical kits for rapid dispatch.

We will need to see over the coming period what access will be possible, in a safe and impartial manner, to provide humanitarian assistance.